August 19, 2009

read, watch, and repeat

The Wrap recently posted a story about an upcoming television pilot based on Audrey Niffenegger's book "Time Traveler's Wife" by ABC and Marta Kauffman (creator and EP of Friends). Apparently, plans to create this series started long before the film version, which premiered over the weekend.

I read this book and loved it, but haven't yet seen the film, so I can't provide critique of the first attempt at a live action interpretation of the story. The plot - essentially a love story about a man who has a condition causing him to spontaneously disappear and travel through time and his wife who he meets while traveling to various stages of her life - provides a lot of interesting story ideas for a television series. On the other hand, the book (without giving anything away) presents a devastating situation for a couple. I'm not sure the heavy themes in the book could survive on television.
The other question is: does the film help or hurt the pilot's chances? The film provides excellent marketing. The audience for the story has grown far beyond the readership of the book itself. However, can a television show live up to the quality of a film? Again, I haven't seen it, but I can't imagine ABC garnering a pair nearly as perfect as Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.

Let's look at the historical evidence. Although book to film adaptations are more common, there have been a few successful television adaptations of books. Dexter, Bones, and a handful of comic book adaptations come to mind. There have also been many successful television to film adaptations - Wayne's World, Star Trek, Charlie's Angels, Transformers, Jackass, South Park, Blues Brothers, Fugitive, Sex & The City - to name a few.

But it seems when you flip it around, the results are less favorable. For example: Clueless (incidentally also based on a book), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Ferris Bueller, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, My Big Fat Greek Life, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Exceptions being wildly popular shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Odd Couple, and M*A*S*H.

It remains to be seen which path "Time Traveler's Wife" will follow. Marta Kauffman's bread and butter has always been sitcoms. I can't really see that happening. As I said, a full literal interpretation of the book may be too heavy for television. I'd like to see them strike somewhere in the middle - similar to Dexter.

Who would you cast as the star-crossed TV couple? I'm torn on the male lead, but I would like Kerri Russell to wait patiently by the phone.


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